Meaning of review

It is well understood that once a judgement is pronounced or an order is made by the court, the court becomes functus officio, that means such judgement or order is final and cannot be changed or altered.[1] But there can be some exceptional circumstances where a judicial re-examination is made by the same judge and such re-examination is called review.

The jurisprudential approach behind the introduction of this provision is consideration of human fallibility. In simple words, a judge, begin a human being after all, can also commit certain irregularities or error which are later realised to be re-considered and reviewed upon. When such irregularities are made, such mistakes or errors must be corrected to prevent miscarriage of justice.[2] This concept has been adopted from and in consonance with the rule of equity of Common Law. After understanding it meaning and objective, what other things comes in purview of this provision is in what circumstances is a petition of review can be presented, what are the grounds and who can apply for a review petition and moreover who may hear such review petition?

There are generally three cases which brings forth a petition for review. Firstly, all those cases which are non appealable attracts a petition for review. A decree passed by Court of small causes is non appealable therefore it can be reviewed. Secondly, in cases which are appealable but no such appeal is proffered by an aggrieved can also be scrutinised under ambit of review. Thirdly, even a decision on reference from Small Causes Court can be reviewed.

While talking in terms of prerequisite which calls for review, it can be stated that when there a discovery of new evidence, it calls for review. Imagine, a decree is passed but later on a new evidence is discovered which was no discovered under ordinary circumstances for a man of ordinary prudence concerned in the case. But there must be existence of two things, due diligence and strong reasons which must be in consonance with each other. It has been held that the underlying object of this provision is neither to enable the court to write a second judgement nor to give a second inning to the party who has lost the case because of his negligence or indifference. [3] This means that such a provision allows this review on grounds that on his part he did not remiss from doing anything for serving justice. It is also to be kept in mind that even if such an evidence is allowed to be produced, and after its due scrutiny, could be having any effect on the judgement or not?

To illustrate the above mentioned principle more coherently, a case citied where a suit was dismissed on two grounds which are firstly, for want of notice as required by law and secondly, illegitimacy of the plaintiff and thereafter a review was applied for on the ground of illegitimacy of the plaintiff, it was refused on the ground that such suit was, in any case, required to be dismissed on the grounds of want of notice.[4]

Secondly in a judgement where an error is made which is as apparent as on the face of it, such shall not be considered avoidable. It is held that no error can be said to be an error apparent on the face of the record if it is not self evident and requires an examination or argument to establish it.[5] In fact, an observation in case of Thungabhadra Industries Limited v. Government of A.P. stated that “ …where without any elaborate argument one could point to the error and say here is a substantial point of law which stares one in the face, an there could reasonably be no opinions entertained about it, a clear case of error apparent on the face of the record can be made out.”[6] Therefore the circumstances which the fact of law was amended retrospectively or on the grounds of an omission in trying the material facts of the case or even where the judgement is pronounced without a notice is the parties are held to be situations in consonance to the foregoing principle.

The third main ground for a review to be made is any other sufficient reason which is not supported under the umbrella of the first two grounds. It depends on the nature and circumstances of the each case which may range from circumstances where a party had no notice or fair opportunity to produce his evidence or a ground which goes to the root of a matter and affects inherent jurisdiction of the court. Though the rainbow like wide protection of sufficient cause gets its colour from various reasonable causes but few cases which stands on the legs of negligence and omission as in cases of absence of parties on hearing or failure of party or his pleader to plead properly are not valid grounds to be under any other sufficient case.

Therefore a petition of review can be made by any person who is aggrieved by such judgement or order. It has been held that an aggrieved person means a person who has suffered a legal grievance or against whom a decision has been pronounced which has wrongfully deprived him of something or wrongfully refused him something or wrongfully affected his title to something.[7] And henceforth the job of hearing such a review petition is of the same judge who has given a judgement or order on the same subject matter which is brought before him for reconsideration subsequently because of reasons that such judge would be well acquainted with the facts of such case and could correct any error, if found in such case. But a contingency may arise when the same judge would not be available because of circumstances such as transfer, retirement or death, etc, and in such cases any successor to that judge or any other judge of concurrent jurisdiction can hear such review petition.


[1] Order XX Rule 3

[2] Lily Thomas v. Union Bank of India AIR 2000 SC 1650

[3] Sardar Balbir Singh v. Atma Ram AIR 1977 All 445

[4] Mahabir Prasad v. Collector of Allahabad AIR 1914 All 44

[5] Moran Mar Besselios Catholicos v. Mar Poulose Athanasius AIR 1954 SC 526

[6] AIR 1964 SC 1372

[7] S.P. Gupta v. Union of India AIR 1982 SC 149